Army Docs Show Interest in 'American Idol,' 'X Factor': 'Good Possibility It Will Be a Ratings Hit'
It doesn’t exactly rise to the level of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, but a new batch of Pentagon documents showing the military’s keen interest in Hollywood has still raised a few eyeballs. A recent FOIA request by SpyCulture.com’s Tom Secker produced about 1,400 pages of documents from the U.S. Army’s Office of the Chief of Public Affairs (OCPA-West) -- which acts as a liaison between the entertainment industry and the Army.
Unsurprisingly, the documents show highly organized efforts by the military to cultivate positive relationships with Hollywood studios in the making of films and television. Some of the data is essentially a spreadsheet of ongoing projects, like a request to allow Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe to shoot footage at Fort Hood, or noting that several non-commissioned officers had just appeared on Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen.
In another document, the Army seemed genuinely bummed at the ouster of a season 10 American Idol contestant who was also a PSYOP (psychological operations) specialist based out of Fort Bragg. “Unfortunately she was voted off the show late last week during filming in Hollywood,” the entry said. The singer-soldier’s name is redacted and the Army goes on to list several positives of the show, such as ratings and international reach. Idol even visited Fort Bragg to “tape her participating in an airborne operation and to shoot interviews with her.”
The OCPA-LA was also contacted by producers of The X Factor, who proposed conducing an open casting call for singers in the defense department. “Good possibility the new program will develop into a ratings hit,” the official wrongly predicted. Later, the Simon Cowell-helmed show filmed a Thanksgiving episode at an Army base in Missouri. “This program provided Fort Leonard Wood with an opportunity to help connect the American people with one of our installations and the soldiers who train there,” it said. “With increased television viewing over the Thanksgiving holiday, we can expect this segment will exceed last week’s 7 million viewers for this episode.”
Another entry described a meeting between HBO and the Army to discuss a proposed character for Veep. Producers were thinking about adding a military advisor character to appear alongside star Julia Louis-Dreyfus. “Our interest is a character that connects well with audiences and shows the human dimension of military service,” it said.
In another, NBC’s America’s Got Talent was granted access to Fort Sam Houston to “film footage of service members’ daily routines.”
The FOIA results — which cover January 2010 to April 2015 — show the Army’s involvement in TV shows ranging from Cupcake Wars to Ice Road Truckers to something amazing called Battlefield Priests (following the lives of Military Chaplains). There are also dealings with several documentary projects and big-name movies including Transformers and Superman. Many are simply requests to shoot b-roll on military bases or to speak with officials on-camera.
Take a look at the doc dump here.